A year after President Donald Trump invited presidents of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to meet with him in the Oval Office, he is now taking steps to fulfill the promises he made to support their historical mission and goals.
It was February 2017 when Trump signed an Executive Order announcing his Board of Advisors on HBCUs, and named Johnathan Holifield as executive director of the President’s White House Initiative on HBCUs. With the announcement of Johnny Taylor’s appointment Tuesday, the table is set to move forward with Trump’s list of priorities at a time when HBCUs are gravely in need of higher funding and support.
Taylor is well-respected among his colleagues and was seen as an effective leader of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), where he served for seven years as its CEO before resigning late last year to become CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management. At TMCF, he raised money on behalf of the nation’s HBCUs, and now as chair of the president’s HBCU Advisory Board, he hopes to provide more significant exposure to corporations for the pool of talent produced by these institutions.
Trump’s list of priorities for HBCUs is modest, compared to the needs that exist. HBCUs are struggling to keep their doors open with student enrollment declining and an infrastructure that is decaying. Just last week, 95-year-old Concordia College in Alabama announced it was closing after its enrollment dropped to 400 students and its debt exceeded $8 million.
The White House reported that Trump ordered 31 government agencies to submit annual plans to an Interagency Working Group that will “strengthen the capacity” of HBCUs. His budget maintains funding for HBCUs for 2018 and 2019, and he has called for an additional $20 million in funding for the Strengthening HBCUs program “above the amount set in the recent budget deal.” His budget also calls for an increase of $400 million for the TRIO program and an increase of $300 million for Federal Work Study.
It is important to acknowledge Trump’s attention to the value and plight of HBCUs. National and local education and civil rights leaders, along with the hundreds of thousands of HBCU alumnae around the world, must add fuel to the fire to ensure the Trump administration adheres to his mandates.